"I want to contribute" says ambitious Celtic talent Leo Hjelde

By Euan Davidson

April 22, 2021

Celtic youngster Leo Hjelde has opened up on his move to Paradise.

The hotly-tipped young centre-back, still just 17, has been starring on loan at Ross County. Under John Hughes, the Norwegian has made 8 league appearances, scoring once [Transfermarkt]. That’s earned him rave reviews, including a comparison to Liverpool man Virgil van Dijk [Daily Record].

There’s significant talk about Leo Hjelde being a member of Celtic’s first-team next season. Fellow Norwegian Kristoffer Ajer is a continual source of speculation, while Shane Duffy’s loan deal finishes in the summer. That leaves Stephen Welsh, Christopher Jullien (injured long-term) and Nir Bitton as the cover at centre-back, while the future of Jack Hendry is still unclear.

Speaking to Luke Mazoyer of Youth Football Scotland TV, Hjelde talked about coming to Celtic, his start in the development side, and taking inspiration from his countryman Kristoffer Ajer.

Hjelde said [Youth Football Scotland TV]:

“There was a couple of clubs interested. I went around to see how it was and… yeah!

An exciting seven days for Celtic fans is about to get underway

“The pathway to the first team was a bit closer than other big teams I was speaking to. Just the general feeling when I went there, it was a good environment to be in.

“Obviously, [adapting to Scotland] was a bit difficult in the start. Playing senior football and [under 23s] is quite a big difference, but 23s was good. I was struggling a bit the first few months.

“Kris [Ajer] has been really good with me. We’ve had a lot of chats, and I saw him every single day, had lunch with him as well. He really helped me with settling in and staying calm. If I needed any advice I’d speak to him.

“I need to create my own pathways. I look up to Kris so far as an inspiration, but in the end I have to make my own pathway.

Celtic youngster Leo Hjelde / (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

“World-class”; Leo Hjelde impressed by Celtic standards

Hjelde, clearly impressed by the standards at Celtic, is keen to make an impact in 21-22.

If his loan spell is anything to go by, Hjelde is a combative and classy centre-back, who’s comfortable on the ball. Comparisons to Ajer are obvious, but the 17-year-old seems cognisant of the challenge he faces breaking into the first-team.

Hjelde said [Youth Football Scotland TV]:

“The first-team at Celtic is world-class. They play Europa League, should be playing Champions League because of the size of the club.

“Next year I want to contribute to the team, if it’s possible.”

Clearly ambitious, with the talent to match, the next few seasons will be absolutely pivotal to Leo Hjelde’s development. If his performances can match the hype, the ex-Rosenborg defender could prove to be Celtic’s next star man, and another shrewd acquisition from Scandinavia.

What happens next is up to Leo Hjelde.

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